I have just finished my first year at the University of Sheffield studying BA Archaeology and I have always loved archaeology (blame my parents for showing me copious amounts of Time Team as a child). When I learned from one of my lecturers that I could do work experience with Wessex Archaeology, I jumped at the chance as I love learning about any and all forms of archaeology.
Over my week at Wessex Archaeology, I have had the opportunity to learn about a variety of skills and roles, with each day bringing something new. No matter what I was doing, everyone was very welcoming and eager to help me learn as much as possible.
There has been so much I have learned each day, but here are a few of my highlights:
On my first day, I had the opportunity to learn about Desk Based Assessments, which are designed to inform the planning process. I had a talk on the whole process and completed a mock assessment of the historical and archaeological context of one of Wessex Archaeology’s sites. This was a nice first task for me as it built on the experience I have working with my local Historic Environment Record team. Both jobs require the use of databases and GIS to work out what features are within a given area. I really enjoyed this task as it gave me the opportunity to work on some of my existing skills.
Over the next few days I did some work with the Finds and Archiving team. This was very interesting as I had not realised the breadth of the work the team did. I had envisaged it was to do with only washing and storing finds but there is so much more! I learned about how they send finds off to specialists and record all the finds and environmental samples in databases. I shadowed people doing quantifying (weighing and bagging of finds) and identifying animal bone and I personally helped to inventory the boxes of finds and wash some finds from field walking. Working in Finds was also interesting as I had the opportunity to look at some of the finds they had stored, including from Navio Roman Fort in the Hope Valley, which was where I did my University dig a few weeks ago.
I have also talked to people about everything from the Sheffield Castle excavation to Geophysics. I enjoyed these conversations as I learned about jobs which I had not previously considered, like Graphics. I also listened to some of the lunchtime talks and I especially enjoyed one on Grubenhauser (sunken featured buildings) which seemed fitting as I am visiting West Stow in the summer, a reconstructed Grubenhauser village.
I have really enjoyed my week with Wessex Archaeology and I have learned about things that I never even knew existed in archaeology before! It has only made me more determined to pursue a career in the field. However, the week was not entirely useful as I hoped to narrow down which part of archaeology I love the most. It turns out that I still want to do everything!
I am so thankful that I was able to come and do this week of work experience. I have learned so much and everyone has been so nice to me, especially Lindsey who helped me arrange my week and helped me to find my way around the confusing building that is Wessex Archaeology North. It has inspired me to do further work experience with my local museum in September as it has reminded me how much I love learning about the different facets of archaeology and heritage.
Katherine Maeer, First Year Archaeology Student